Susan Jane Gardner

Gardner—Susan Jane Gardner, 76, on January 2, 2022, peacefully, four days before her seventy-seventh birthday, in Charlotte, N.C. Susan was born on January 6, 1945, to Weston and Barbara Gardner in Pittsburgh, Pa. She was active in various clubs and school plays and a member of the National Honor Society at Brookfield Central High School in Brookfield, Wis. Susan graduated summa cum laude with a French major from Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn. She earned a master’s degree in comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a doctorate in English at Rhodes University in South Africa. She lectured at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

Susan loved traveling and visited France, Germany, Canada, and New Guinea before returning home. Back in the United States, she was a lecturer at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis., and at Milwaukee School of Engineering. She spent several years at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., where she worked with many international students. In 1990, Susan joined the English Department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte), where she was a professor of English until her retirement in 2012. She was deeply committed to teaching and to her students’ welfare. One former student remembered Susan as a kind face and welcoming spirit who engendered a sense of belonging.

In addition to traditional course offerings, Susan developed and taught several courses related to Native American film and literature. These grew from her deep fondness for Native American history and culture, including children’s literature. Susan was engaged with the American Indian Studies Department at UNC Pembroke, where she was a presenter at their annual conferences. She worked on a study of the tribal elders of Robeson County, N.C., and many of her publications focused on Native Americans. Other academic interests included transnational feminism, postcolonial literary theory, and life narrative. Susan served as an adjunct professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and was a faculty affiliate in the American Studies Program while at UNC Charlotte.

Susan was a faithful and well-loved member of Charlotte (N.C.) Meeting. She is fondly remembered for being a greeter, as well as for recruiting others. She hosted the meeting’s book club for many years. Susan was a member of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee and actively engaged in social justice causes. She was active with organizations addressing Native American concerns, and brought these to the attention of the meeting. Susan made several trips to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, bringing donations and working in their schools. She collected donations for and engaged in the annual holiday celebration of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

Susan was a faithful volunteer at the Center for Community Transitions in Charlotte, a residential facility for incarcerated women. She often took residents for community excursions and taught topical classes. Her life narrative writing class was particularly appreciated. Susan befriended several of the incarcerated women.

Susan was well known for her sense of style. She enjoyed wearing colorful clothing and interesting jewelry. She was an avid reader who participated in several book clubs and possessed an extensive personal library. She traveled widely, visiting nearly every continent. Susan was a devoted cat lover who cared for several rescues over the years.

Susan was predeceased by her parents. She is survived by a brother, Stephen Gardner (Candace); an aunt, Marion Michaels; and other relatives and friends.

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